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February 1, 2010

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Mayor outlines resolution for a better life in the city

SHANGHAI will expand its affordable housing scheme, trim reliance on real estate-related fiscal income, publicize its billions in World Expo investment and raise the minimum wage this year as the city heads for a "Better City, Better Life," Mayor Han Zheng said yesterday.

"One of the key tasks this year is to make sure all the housing policies are properly implemented," said Han at a press conference after the Shanghai People's Congress ended. "Too-high property prices hurt Shanghai's growth."

He pledged to strengthen an affordable housing scheme, and especially the city's public rental housing mechanism.

The city will seek public opinions on its plan to make rents affordable for more residents, in the second quarter.

The city will also endeavor to expand its budget home schemes throughout the city in the second half of this year after a trial in Xuhui and Minhang districts is completed in the first quarter.

"Low rents are not enough, more steps are to be made to enable residents to buy their own homes," Han said.

Shanghai is also trying to cut its reliance on income from the real estate industry, Han said.

"Fiscal income from finance and real estate sector accounted for a big chunk of the city's total fiscal income last year," Han said. "We are not looking forward to seeing a bigger contribution of the property industry this year. We expect to better our fiscal income structure in that sense."

Shanghai will spend most of its land-leasing proceeds on infrastructure and relocation projects to improve the living conditions of its residents.

The Expo is the key event for Shanghai this year and the city has earmarked 18 billion yuan (US$2.63 billion) for the construction of the Expo site.

The investment had been wisely used, with the project within budget and without abuse, the mayor said.

Investment on running the event from May to October is planned at 10.6 billion yuan, most of which will come from sales of tickets, Expo products and corporate sponsorship.

"All the expenditure will be audited and we will post the spending to the public for citywide supervision," Han said.

He also said that the city will raise the minimum wage by about 15 percent from April 1.

The figure was put on hold last year, partly due to the world economic downturn and the city's aid to earthquake-stricken Dujiangyan in Sichuan Province. The previous increase was in 2008 when the bottom line was lifted from 840 yuan to the current 960 yuan.

In 1995, Shanghai was the first in the country to adopt the minimum wage scheme, with the figure set at 270 yuan a month.


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